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Chat Noir carefully avoided yet another one of the odd, silvery strands making up the dome he was heading towards. He knew that he would find an akuma inside that dome but he had no idea how he would defeat or purify it, since Ladybug had been absent all day, and it had been hours since the akuma was first spotted.

But he had to try.

As he stepped into the dome, he immediately noticed the huge, human-shaped caccoons suspended in the air, muffled yelling and crying coming from them. And at the very tip of the dome, suspended with strands, stood the akuma. He couldn't see her face, but her black suit stood out against the silver dome— and so did the red hourglass on her back.

Chat was so distracted by watching her that he stopped paying paying attention and walked right into one of the strands.

Shit.

As he desperately tried to rip his foot off of the sticky strand, the entire dome started shuddering with his movements, and the akuma slowly turned around. He eyes darted across her, noting her red and black mask, her smirking red lips, and her black hair carefully pulled into a crisp bun. And the glossy spider legs unfurling behind her.

"Hello chaton."

Everything dropped out under from him, his veins going cold. "L-Ladybug?"

Chapter Text

"Hey Bonnie. Did I do something wrong?"

"What? No! Today was great!"

"No, not today. I mean when we used to date."

"Oh."

"Everything was going fine and then... you just cut me off. You dumped me and erased me from your life and I just... I want to know what I did."

"... You didn't do anything. It wasn't you, it was me."

"Bonnie—"

"That wasn't a joke; it really was all on me. I was scared."

"Of me?"

"No! Yes? Maybe. We were getting really serious."

"You could've just said you wanted to slow things down."

"But I didn't! I loved how things we were going between us!"

"Then why were you scared?"

"Because there was just so much going on. We were getting serious, other kingdoms were popping up, and the Candy Kingdom was suddenly booming and everyone was looking to me for guidance. It was too much to handle."

"I could've helped you. If you'd just asked..."

"I thought you'd leave. Don't look at me like that— you had no reason to stay with me. Helping me with the kingdom would've meant giving up your nomadic life, your partying and traveling and exploring. Why would you give all that up for me?"

"I would've stayed."

"Would you have? Really?"

"..."

"I didn't want you to leave me. I didn't want to give you the chance to hurt me like that. So I left you first."

"That's stupid."

"I know."

"..."

"..."

"I'm sorry, you know."

"Yeah. So am I."

Chapter Text

"Shouldn't you be in Ravenclaw or something?"

Carter jumped at the voice, suddenly noticing the green-eyed boy sitting across from him. Carter knew he was. Everyone knew he was. Percy Jackson. The Slytherin who seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve, who called out the bullies in Slytherin and who spent all his time hanging out with a weird group of people from all different backgrounds and every single house. Why Jackson was talking to him, a nerdy Gryffindor, was a mystery to Carter.

Realizing that he had yet to answer the other boy's question, Carter flushed. "W-what?"

The Slytherin frowned, staring at him intensely. "You're a Gryffindor, but I've never seen you do anything except read and study and read some more. Aren't Gryffindors supposed to run off and get into grand adventures and fight dragons or whatever? Why aren't you doing any of that?"

"Okay, first of all," Carter began, "if we're going by stereotypes, then you wouldn't belong in Slytherin either because you act more like a Gryffindor. Or are we forgetting the time that you jumped into the Great Lake to hang out with the Giant Squid? Not a very Slytherin thing to do."

Carter sort of expected Jackson to get angry, and was shocked when the other boy burst into laughter instead. "I like you, Carter! Wanna go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?"

"Uh, sure?"

"Awesome!" Percy exclaimed, standing up to leave. "It's a date!"

Carter stared at his retreating back in shock, feeling like he just walked into an alternate universe where cute Slytherins noticed nerdy Gryffindors and where he could actually get a date without his sister setting it up for him.

What just happened?

Chapter Text

"Hey, do you have any concealer or foundation or something? I was kicked out last night and didn't have the chance to grab my stuff."

Tony looked up, finally noticing that his friend was standing right next to the swings he was sitting on. Now that he was actually looking at Natasha, he could see the bruises on her neck and a cut on her forehead. At least she wasn't bleeding. "I have my concealer, but we do not have the same skin tone. It would look ridiculous on you. We can stop at Walgreens or something before school."

"I don't have any cash on me."

"I'll cover it, don't worry. My old man doesn't pay any attention to the cards. I didn't have time to set my makeup this morning, so I need too touch it up anyway."

The two teenagers started walking in the direction of their school, continuing to murmur to each other while keeping an eye out for anyone they knew.

"Do you need somewhere to stay tonight? Howard won't notice as long as you stay in my room."

"Nah, I don't want to make things worse for you if he finds out. I'll just crash with Steve or something."

"Sarah will try filing a report again."

"Doesn't matter if she can't get any proof. And I'll have concealer by then."

"It won't do shit for that cut."

"I'll just say I fell while practicing ballet or something. It'll be fine."

The conversation continued all the way through them choosing makeup and sponges, going through checkout (including Natasha glaring the clerk into silence), and finally heading towards the bathrooms in the back. As Natasha started applying foundation, fighting back winces as she pressed on the bruises, Tony spoke up again. "You know, we could totally take a makeup class or two and learn how to do this shit properly. Youtube isn't as helpful as you'd think."

"Tony?"

"Yeah?"

"Please shut up. I'm trying to concentrate."

"I'm just saying—"

"Tony!"

"Fine, fine! Shutting up."

Chapter Text

"Could you... Could you teach me about Judaism?"

Ethan jerked his head up, staring at Joyce in shock. She was standing in his doorway, practically swimming in her largest, thickest sweater and looking like she'd just walked up to Satan himself to ask for dating advice. When he saw how scared and uncomfortable she looked, Ethan's reflexive defensiveness about his Judaism faded a bit and he turned away from his computer to look at her.

"Will you immediately start talking about Jesus the moment I make any sort of mention of a Messiah?" He was careful to keep his tone light, not wanting her to bolt.

"I'll, uh, try not to?" Joyce shrugged helplessly, still not looking at him. "But I can't make any promises. It's what I've believed my entire life you know?"

"No, no, I totally get it. Why do you want to learn about it anyway? And can we discuss this somewhere else? I have a depressing lack of seating in here." He got up from his desk and started gathering up his laptop and a small pile of books before heading towards the door. Joyce followed him to the lobby quietly.

"I dunno, I just... I love God! I do! He's everything to me, the most important part of my life. But Dorothy suggested that I 'expand my horizons' or something by researching other religions and I know that you're Jewish so I thought that I could try googling it and reading articles and stuff... And I actually really like it? Everything I read makes so much sense and clicks with me so well. I never realized that there was something missing from my faith until now, but I think I found it..." The more she spoke, the more closed off she became until she was basically buried in her sweater, trying so hard to avoid looking at anyone.

Ethan gently led her to one of the chairs, dragging another over to it so that they'd have a little cube of privacy. He started up his laptop while he tried to think of what to say. "I think that deciding to research other faiths was a really good idea on your part, even if it's just to understand your friends and avoid saying something offensive. And I also really understand questioning your faith."

For the first time, she met his eyes, still looking so heartbreakingly scared and unsure. "You... you do? But You've always seemed so sure about being Jewish."

Ethan let out a surprised snort of laughter. "'Sure?' I'm a gay guy who grew up in an unobservant family with parents who are only Jewish when it suits them. And the other Jews in my area were mostly Orthodox, which made me even more unsure about whether I can actually be gay and Jewish. I also eat Chick-fil-A, which is definitely not kosher, and the only Hebrew I know is the Kaddish and what I read for my Bar Mitzvah. I'm like, the worst Jew possible. I barely even know my own religion."

"Oh... So who do I talk to then? Dorothy isn't really Jewish and Joe is... Joe."

"You can still talk to me, of course. I have a ton of books on Judaism that my observant family members gave to me and I know a ton of websites with articles and resources. Some of these books are even specifically for conversion students and conversion prospects, which says a lot about how my family thinks of my Jewishness." He gave an awkward chuckle, looking genuinely embarrassed. "But it's working for us now, so I'm not going to complain."

"I'm not looking to convert! At least, I don't think I am, but... I don't know anymore."

Ethan just smiled at her gently. "Don't worry, you don't have to decide any time soon. For now, let's take it slow and just focus on learning. If you decide that you still want to look into converting a month or two from now, then we can email a rabbi and set up a meeting for you or something. Is that alright?"

"Yeah, that... that sounds good." Her voice was getting stronger as she gained confidence, but then she wilted again as something occurred to her. Will you help me? During the research and all that, but also when I tell my family if I decide to convert? I don't... I don't think I'd want to be alone for that."

"Of course I'll help you! You're one of my best friends and I'm so happy that you're trusting me with this. Honestly, I think this will be good for me too. I've been wanting to get more into my faith and this might be the motivation that I need. I was actually planning on going to Shabbat services tonight, if you want to come with me?"

"Yeah," she said, slowly starting to grin at her friend's excitement. "I think I'd really like that. Now, let's see these books you have!"

Chapter Text

"Are you serious? We have to finish three essays, study for the two exams next week, prepare for our meeting with the goblins, and plan for our bonding ceremony, and you're sleeping?"

Harry groaned and cracked one eye open. He wasn't particularly surprised to see his fiancé standing above him, framed by the soft light coming through the doorway. unfortunately, the angelic look was ruined by the rather fierce scowl on Tom's face.

"I was sleeping. And having a lovely dream too, until you interrupted me. Now either nap with me or leave me alone."

Somehow, Tom's scowl managed to get even deeper and when he spoke, his voice was sharp and icy. "We have work to do and you're napping in a broom closet. Not even in your bed or on a couch in the common room, but in a broom closet! It took me almost an hour to find you!"

"Why didn't you just use a Point Me spell?"

"That is not the point!"

Harry frowned, quickly realizing that the other boy was genuinely upset. "You don't need to worry about me. I've finished all my homework, I'm going to ace the exams whether I study or not, I've already finished getting everything together for the meeting, and I can't plan for the ceremony without my the input of my fiancé, now can I? Now," he said, patting the floor next to him,"calm down and tell me what's wrong."

There was a long beat of silence, and then Tom's shoulders slumped in defeat. Swallowing down his dignity, he sat down on the dusty floor of the closet, finally letting the tension leak out of him. "I suppose... I've been feeling rather stressed. There's so much going on, and it's... frightening to think that in just a few short months, we'll be graduates and Lords, and then we'll be married. Then we'll start our apprenticeships and we'll both be so busy with work and finances and politics. How will we be able to balance everything? What if we can't? What if it all falls apart? What if—"

Tom's voice had been steadily rising and it was obvious that he was talking himself into a panic. Harry wisely decided to cut off, pressing a soft kiss against his mouth. "Deep breaths. Breathe with me." The next few minutes were spent in silence until, finally, Tom's breathing was steady and calm and his head was tucked into the crook of Harry's neck.

"Are you feeling better now?" Harry waited until he felt the older boy nod against his neck. "Good. I understand why you're stressed. Hecate knows I'm stressed too, I'm just better at hiding it. A lot of things are changing, and they're changing really quickly. Our lives in a few months are going to radically different than they are now, and while I'd love to promise that everything will be fine, I can't. I'm not a seer. I can't see the future, and I have no idea what sort of obstacles are waiting for us. But I can promise that I'm here for you, and I'll always be here. You don't have to carry this worry alone anymore."

He stood up, pulling Tom up with him. "Now, we are going to go the library. You can finish your essays and we can study together. Then we can make a game plan for the meeting with the goblins and finalize some decisions for the ceremony. After that, we are going to take a nap."

"Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously. We are going to curl up in my bed and sleep for at least an hour. When we wake up, we'll have slow, sleepy sex and make inane pillow talk until we're ready to actually get up and get dressed. And then we'll play a game of chess or two before worrying about all that other shite on our schedule. Sound good to you?"

"You'll just cheat."

An unashamed shrug was the only response Tom received. "Maybe. But that's what makes it interesting! Now come on. There's an armchair in the library and a bed in the dorms that are calling my name, and I refuse to deprive them of my presence any longer."

"You know, for a Slytherin, you are remarkably unambitious. You just spend all your time sleeping."

"I'm ambitious! My ambitions just happen to mostly involve living a life of lazy luxury where I can sleep and watch the clouds all day while my successful and incredibly handsome husband takes over the world."

Tom chuckled and pressed a kiss to Harry's head. "Fair enough."

Chapter Text

Tom had faced down countless countless and come out victorious. He outsmarted manticores, tamed basilisks, even forced giants to bow to him.

But this might be his most dangerous quest yet.

The cave he stood in was massive, and so oppressively dark that even the light of his magic could only illuminate a few feet. The little light he had revealed glimmers in the stone floor, hinting at priceless treasures hidden just below the surface. He had no doubt that the cave was filled with precious gems, diamonds and sapphires and rubies, enough to make even the most experienced adventurer cry from awe.

But that was not what Tom was here for. Instead, his focus was on the imperfections in the floor, massive grooves that revealed what sort of creature lived in this cave and claimed this mountains.

A dragon.

A beast of smoke and flame, with a hide that is near impenetrable and a set of claws strong enough to cut through diamonds as if they're paper. A beast that is so powerful that lesser creatures think of it as a god. A beast that many would run away from before they even get a glimpse of it, the smell of smoke and the thundering beat of its wings enough to drive any but the bravest knights away.

And Tom was standing in the den of one of those beasts.

Perhaps, if he was smarter, he would've never given thought to the rumors of flames in the far mountains. Never journeyed to a tiny village at the base of said mountains, where every home contained a statue of a dragon, surrounded with offerings of flowers and stones and whatever else the home's occupants could spare. Never climbed those mountains, with their snow-capped peaks and seemingly empty caves. Never approached the entrance of the highest and largest cave, the cave that no other creatures would step foot near, as if there was a barrier surrounding it. Never stepped foot into that cave as if he couldn't feel every part of him screaming to run.

Thinking about this, about the fearsome beast he was about the encounter, Tom was struck with a bone-deep terror that he hadn't felt since he was a child, that left him paralyzed in place. His mind was screaming at him to run, run, run but even if he could have, it was too late.

The shadows surrounding him had started to shift and a soft, pulsing light was cutting through the darkness. And from that darkness, an eye peered out at him.

The face the eye was set in was impressive on its own, with a long snout, a powerful maw filled with massive teeth, thick fur forming a beard, and hint of piercing antlers that disappeared into the shadows.

But the eye... It was the most beautiful thing Tom had ever seen, so stunning that he could actually feel himself relaxing just a tiny bit. The pupils were so dark that they seemed to absorb light, while the iris was faceted, as if it was cut from the finest and most brilliant emerald in the world.

For the first time in his life, Tom understood why poets were so obsessed with the beauty of dragons.

And then the beast opened his mouth.

"Tell me, little hatchling, what brings you to my mountains?"

Tom gathered his nerve, straightened his back, and forced himself to gaze directly into that massive eye. "Great Dragon Lord Hyperion, I come bearing a gift of obsidian and diamond for you in return for a favor. I have heard that you and I share a common enemy, a wizard who has stolen a part of your hoard from you and stolen my life from me. A wizard who calls himself the Lord of the Light. Who goes by the name of Albus Dumbledore."

Tom could see the dragon, Hyperion, was becoming interested and with newly found vigor, he continued speaking.

"He is hidden in his castle, a fortress that he disguises as a safe haven, but those who enter must swear fealty to him or else they are turned away and left for dead. He uses them as soldiers, canon fodder for the battles that he starts. And then he dresses them up as martyrs, as if they made the choice to sacrifice themselves for a just cause. He hides the truth, that he has manipulated and lied to every single one of his followers in his attempt to gain more power. I was one of his many victims, but I was one of the few fortunate enough to see him for what he is before it was too late. And now I want to save the others caught in his web.

"If you help me kill him and reclaim what he has stolen from the both of us, then there will great rewards awaiting you. You will receive more riches than you could ever imagine. You will be regarded as the most powerful and fearsome being in the lands, able to end the rule of the most powerful warlock in history. Temples will be built and offerings left in your honor. You will become a god. And, most importantly, you will regain the missing piece of you beloved hoard and get the revenge that you have sought for decades.

"Now tell me, Great Dragon, do you accept my proposal?"

Hyperion watched him in silence for several long, tense moments until finally, a grin split across his face.

"I think, little hatchling, that this is the start of a beautiful partnership."

Chapter Text

Pearl was numb, feeling like she was watching herself from above. She didn't know how she felt when she looked around, saw the pink walls and gossamer curtains and the unnamed pink Gems watching her. She definitely didn't know she felt when she looked into Steven's eyes and, instead of warm brown and round pupils, she saw a familiar set of pink with a diamond center. She didn't know how she felt, but she guessed it would be close to horror.

Before she could gather herself after that horrible bombshell he'd dropped on them– he couldn't have joined their enemies he couldn't have betrayed them like that why was he hurting her like this – Steven spoke. "Pearlescent, please show the Crystal Gems to their quarters. My Sapphires are expecting me."

The slim figure peeled herself off the wall, gazing at adoringly. Her salute was elegant and refined, as if she had been doing it for centuries instead of only months. Pearl felt sick looking at it. "Of course, my Diamond. I hope your meeting goes well."

With that, Steven– Pink Diamond, her baby boy, what was happening – strode from the throne room, leaving them alone with his silent Court. The Pink Pearl, her hair in a sleek bob and her gossamer skirt gently floating around her, twirled towards the door, her movements all effortless grace. "Please follow me. Your quarters are this way."

Pearl barely registered moving, barely noticed the other Crystal Gems walking with her (or Greg and Connie, oh stars, why did they have to see this?), but some part of her wept at the sight of the pink crystal walls and stained glass roses surrounding them. The journey was almost finished, everyone still silent, when she finally found her own emotions. And since Steven wasn't there, she focused on the person who was.

"You don't have to do this!"

The Pink Pearl– Pearlescent, as Steven had called her– turned towards them in surprise, not expecting the outburst. "Of course I do, my Diamond gave me orders to show you to your quarters. Now, if we could continue–"

"That's not what I meant!" Pearlescent's calm demeanor and sweet smile was doing nothing except make Pearl more upset. "You don't have to continue being a slave! You can run! Right now! You're a Pearl, everyone would just assume that you're following orders and no one would question you if you went to a hangar! You could be on Earth in just a few hours. You could be free."

Pearlescent just watched in silence as Pearl talked, but her smile had become strained and the skin around her eyes was tight. When she spoke, her voice was colder than ice. "I will not abandon my duties, or my Diamond."

"But–!"

"Because, unlike you, I am not a traitor." The corridor wasn't empty, far from it, but Pearlescent was not afraid, had no worries that her Diamond would punish her for her words. "Everyone knows about you. You were the original Pink Pearl, the Pearl who failed her Diamond by leading her astray. You are nothing more than a defect, and I will not allow you too influence my Diamond. I will not allow you to take him from me."

With that, Pearlescent spun on her heel and continued walking, motioning for them to follow her. She could feel the weight of the gazes of other Court members, and she didn't care. This needed to be said.

The group continued in silence until they reached an empty corridor, set aside from the other sections of the palace. Before she left though, she had one final thing to say to the renegade Pearl. "I hate you for failing your Diamond, for causing the other Diamonds pain. But I am also grateful to you. If you hadn't failed, then the original Pink Diamond would still be here. And I wouldn't have my Diamond."

The Crystal Gems stared at her in silence, growing horror on their faces. She gave them a sickeningly sweet smile.

"Now, here are your quarters. I hope you have a lovely stay on Homeworld." And with that, she strolled away.